Encouragement

Wednesday Wisdom: 21 Ways to be an Exceptional Dad

my brother and me with our dad
my brother and me with our dad

Last Sunday was Father’s Day. What a wonderful day to celebrate the men who have shaped us and who are shaping our children. I feel indeed blessed to not only have had an exceptional father, but also to have an exceptional father for my children. 

I heard this blog post read the other day and was struck by its simplicity, its truth, and its applicability (is that a word??) to both dads and moms. But before we move on to the article, we need to face a hard truth: it is a rare father that does all 21 of these things. And mine certainly didn’t. But then he (and my husband) both have their own unique personalities and good traits that aren’t listed in this article.  

If we are mothers reading this, then let’s appreciate the good things that are written here and also the wonderful things that may not be included here about our fathers and husbands. Let’s apply what we can and become better mothers. 

If you are a father reading this, then I present this as encouragement and inspiration–not as a source of dissatisfaction or hopelessness.  Be the best, most godly father you can be with the resources you have. That is all God asks of you. 

And on a personal note, in this article the author shares how his father rubbed his legs when he was suffering from growing pains as a child. His mention of this brought one of my own favorite memories of my father rushing to my memory. How well I remember him rubbing my aching legs in the middle of the night, while we talked about what heaven will be like. It is one of my fondest memories of time spent with my dad.  

This was written by father and pastor, JoshMcPherson. You can find his original post here.

I don’t want to be a good dad—I want to be a great dad.

But the longer I live and more ministry I do, the more I have come to realize there are precious few examples of grace in action when it comes to fatherhood. So on this Father’s Day, I wanted to take a moment, heed Paul’s exhortation (Eph. 6:1), and honor my own father, Greg.

Was he perfect? Nope.
Did he make mistakes? Sure.
Does he wish he could do things differently? I have no idea.

But in a land where few men finish well when it comes to the daunting task of fatherhood, I’ve found myself reflecting and marveling at the grace of God in my dad’s life. He loved Jesus, repented often, and poured his life into his two sons. How much more could a boy ask for?

In your life, Dad, I have found a roadmap for my own role as father. So I wanted to take a few moments, and tell you thanks from the heart of a grateful son. Specifically, thank you for . . .

1. NEVER PUTTING ME DOWN

Not once. You never made fun of me, mocked me, or talked about me like I wasn’t there. Never was I the butt of your jokes. In everything you built me up, encouraged me, and moved me forward. You always spoke of my future with great hope. “The Lord will give you great opportunities, Josh. Jesus has great plans for you, son.” This sort of prophetic encouragement every boy needs, and I got it in bushels. Thanks, Dad.

2. RUNNING INTO MY ROOM

. . . the night I screamed in agony from growing pains. I was eight. You were half asleep. Tripping on a toy you went sprawling across the room in your underwear. We both burst out laughing. Then you rubbed my leg-cramps for an hour. I slept in the next day; you were up at 5 a.m. and out the door. You put my need to be comforted in front of your need for sleep. Thanks, Dad.

You loved Jesus passionately and it drew me in.

3. BEING THE TOUGHEST MAN I KNOW

. . . and crying in front of me often. It’s good for a boy to see both. I’ve seen you cut down trees, fix tractors, build things, and tackle gut-wrenching church conflict with unflinching courage and razor-sharp biblical clarity. I’ve also seen you listen intently, hug often, and tear up quickly when moved by someone’s pain or God’s grace. Not the helpless, whimpering, cowardly sort of tears—the genuine, earnest, heartfelt tears of a man who feels and thinks deeply. You cry easily when talking about Jesus, the gospel, redemption, and the day God called you into ministry. I love that. Thanks, Dad.

I never felt more safe and loved than when held in your arms.

4. RAISING YOUR HANDS

. . . and singing loudly with the church. I distinctly remember as a young boy looking up and seeing tears roll down your cheek during worship. I couldn’t articulate it then, but I knew that you were singing to someone who meant everything to you, who was great and big and awesome and worthy of your allegiance, and who gave you great joy. That is a gift to a young man. You didn’t tell me to love Jesus passionately—you loved Jesus passionately and it drew me in. Thanks, Dad.

5. SPANKING US, THEN HUGGING US

That is a powerful parenting combination that no child’s heart can resist. I never felt more safe and loved than when held in your arms as the sting of the spank faded and the assurance of your unshakable love filled my little heart. Redemptive discipline is a precious thing. Thanks, Dad.

6. LEAVING ME NOTES ON THE BATHROOM MIRROR

Sometimes they were a verse written out you’d read that morning, or a prayer for something big I was facing, or an apology for something said the night before. No matter the occasion, they were always encouraging, full of Scripture, and right on point. This told me you were thinking about me even when you were gone, and were vested in my success. Huge. I still have most of them to this day. Thanks, Dad.

Always you were there, Bible in hand, heart open, mind working.

7. PUTTING MY FRIENDS TO WORK

Mowing the lawn, cleaning the garage, working on a project in the shop. Every time my friends came over to our house, you worked us like dogs. I could never figure out why all the guys always wanted to come to my house.

But I figured it out later: you treated them like men. And then you’d fire up the BBQ and spend the rest of the day asking us what we wanted to do with our life that would make an eternal impact. Thanks, Dad.

8. READING YOUR BIBLE EVERY MORNING

That is the biggest memory I have: you, at the kitchen table, worn Bible in front of you, studying away. Not checking Facebook. Not returning email. Not reading the paper. Soaking in the Word. Sometimes tears were running down your face. Sometimes your eyebrows were burrowed in thought. Sometimes your head was bowed in prayer. Sometimes your pen was scratching furiously in your journal. But always you were there, Bible in hand, heart open, mind working. It left an indelible imprint on the life of a young boy about how a real man starts his day. Thanks, Dad.

9. LAUGHING LOUD, LONG, AND LOTS

At the dinner table. On a hunting trip. Or just whenever. Some of the most fun memories I have include watching you slap your thigh, throw back your head, and roar with laughter. I loved hearing your laugh. Still do to this day. You took many things in life blood-earnest, but you laughed at yourself often. That is a gift that has served me well in ministry. Thanks, Dad.

10. CHARGING ME RENT

You did this the day I turned 18 and was still living in your house. All of my other friends learned to freeload. I learned to work. And it wasn’t done as a cruel punishment, but a teaching moment for taking responsibility and growing up as a man. Thanks, Dad.

You were not living life unless you’re serving others and God’s kingdom.

11. LOVING ME WITHOUT QUESTION OR HESITATION

I have questioned many things in my life, doubted many things, faced many unknowns. But there is one thing of which I have never questioned: your love for me has been unwavering and relentless, dependable and true. It’s taught me a lot about how I am loved by my better heavenly Father. Thanks, Dad.

12. TURNING DOWN SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS

. . . so you “wouldn’t miss the important years.” I didn’t appreciate it then. I do now. Thanks, Dad.

13. WRESTLING WITH US AS KIDS

. . . every night when you came home from work. You were probably exhausted from work, but knew we were waiting behind the couch to launch a surprise attack. You could have said you were too tired. But you didn’t. You wrestled until, giggling and short of breath, we begged for mercy (and asked for more at the same time). Thanks, Dad.

14. FILLING THE DINNER TABLE WITH STORIES OF GOSPEL VICTORIES

These were the best moments ever. To hear of a broken person made whole through the redeeming work of Jesus. My big takeaway from our dinner conversations was that you were not living life unless you’re serving others and investing in God’s kingdom. You whetted our appetite for gospel ministry early. Thanks, Dad.

15. READING THE PICTURE BIBLE EVERY NIGHT BEFORE BED

And oh, how you brought it to life! When Moses faced the Red Sea, I was overwhelmed with despair. When David stared down Goliath, I trembled with fear. When Jesus rose from the grave, we cheered and clapped for joy. Dad, when you read the Bible, The Story came to life. It’s no wonder your two boys have given their life to teaching others that same Bible. Thanks, Dad.

16. BUYING A HOT TUB

. . . so we could have a place to “hash things over.” Some of my best memories as a teen are coming home after something happened at school or with sports or with friends and asking, “Wanna hit the tub, Dad?” and knowing that you’d never say no, so we could have life-shaping conversations. Thanks, Dad.

17. TEACHING US THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORS

You did this by having multiple mentors yourself and regularly showing us how they helped you. To this day, learning from men around me is a deeply held value of mine, one that has served me, my wife, our family, and our church well. Thanks, Dad.

A wise man is not a perfect man, but a repentant man.

18. SITTING ON THE FRONT ROW

. . . at church, Bible open, taking furious notes and bellowing hearty “Amen’s” while I preach. In this, you show me what it’s like for a man to be a lifelong learner.

19. CONFESSING SIN OFTEN

You were not perfect, but when you messed up, you were quick to confess it and repent of it. These made me feel safe, like I could follow you without fear. There was integrity in your life, and it gave me confidence in your leadership. You taught me by your example that a wise man is not a perfect man, but a repentant man. Thanks, Dad.

20. BEING THE FIRST PERSON I WANTED TO CALL

. . . when we found out Ella Mae would be born with Spina Bifida. That was a dark-night-of-the-soul moment. A confusing time. And all I knew was I needed to call my dad. You listened and affirmed your love for us and God’s plan in all the pain. Then you prayed with us and invited us over to the house. We needed to “talk it out and make a plan for this new little blessing God’s bringing into our lives.” I needed someone to tell me that day that this little girl would be a blessing, and you did. Thanks, Dad.

21. LOVING MY WIFE LIKE YOUR OWN DAUGHTER

She feels your love, she feels your support. She knows that if we came to you for counsel with a relationship conflict between us, that you’d take her side first before you’d take mine. “I think we love her more than we love you, Josh. I know we like her more,” you’ve said with a wink and a laugh. But it’s communicated the point. And that’s a wonderful thing for a daughter-in-law to know. Thanks, Dad.

I could go on but I’m way over word-count. So thanks, Dad, for loving Jesus and living a life that makes it easy to remember and honor. I love you deeply and am still watching closely as you follow Jesus and finish well. You have lived a life worth emulating, and I’ve been taking notes. May I learn from God’s grace in your life to love my children the same.

Berry Lessons

1036401_21908779I couldn’t help noticing the other night, as I picked strawberries, the incredible variety of sizes, shapes, and shades. No berry is alike. There are some that are small and misshapen and others that are large and picture perfect. Some are pinkish, others are bright red, and some are red on one side, while remaining a whitish green on the other. Some ripen a bit at a time while others seem to ripen quickly and completely. It is amazing that these ripe berries, no matter their size or shape, taste delicious.

That is unless they have matured while laying on the garden bed of dirt. Then it often gets too moist and they perish to mold and rot and insects. I throw countless berries away every year, as I will reach for a beautiful, bright red berry just to find that one side has rotted away or a hole has been bored into it by some insect. Berries like that, while appearing attractive at first glance, are good for nothing.

Oh my, how much like people these berries are. Just as there are all shapes and sizes of berries, so there are all shapes and sizes of people.  Is a large, perfectly shaped berry better than a small, misshapen berry? The world would tell you that it is, but a berry is a berry and sometimes those small, misshapen berries taste better than the large ones.  Of course, most of us prefer the pretty berries and anything that is not so pretty probably gets sent to the jam factory. But when you have your own patch (or pick your own at your local CSA) you realize that there are very few perfect berries in life. You also realize that it doesn’t really matter.

I get so frustrated at the narrow definition this culture has for beauty. You have to be a certain body shape (which 90% of us aren’t) and a certain height and weight. We are told that this nose is too small and that one is too large for there to be true beauty.  That one is too long-waisted and this one’s hair too thin. Who in the world makes these rules, anyway? Is anyone else sick of being told what is beautiful by Hollywood and magazine editors?

The other thing that we should consider is that, just like every berry ripens in its own given time, so it is, too, with people. We have to be careful not to expect someone to be a mature Christian, when they are not at that point yet in their walk with Jesus Christ, showing themselves to still be a shade of pinkish-green instead of bright red. Oh, the frustration and damage that is caused by harsh judgement on and unrealistic expectations for baby believers. We need to be very, very careful about this.

We can’t control our body size and shape (I am referring here to our healthy size and shape, not overweight, which can be changed) and we can’t control how fast the people around us mature as believers, but there is something we can control–we can keep ourselves out of the dirt.

Laying in the dirt leads to mold and disease and insect infestation. As a new creature in Christ, we have the power through the work of the Holy Spirit, to keep ourselves up and out of the dirt and muck of the world. If we don’t do it, it is very likely that we will end up good for nothing, at least as far as Christianity and sharing the gospel is concerned.

So let’s stop worrying about the things we can’t change and let’s stop casting arrogant, unforgiving eyes on those around us, and let’s start focusing on the thing we can control–keeping ourselves out of the dirt.

And there you have it– a few lessons from the strawberry patch!

The Cool Factor

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Have you ever met one of those people that is just too cool for anything?

They are too cool to laugh or be seen with certain people or to go to a certain store. They look down their noses at certain brands, certain types of people, and certain styles.

And they are usually very cool.

But I have always wondered — how much fun are they missing out on?

Now, I am often berated (especially by my kids) for how “uncool” I am. But one of the wonderful things about growing older is not caring as much about what people think.

That’s why you often see seniors marching to the beat of a different drummer–with what they wear, the things they do, and the life they live. They have learned a valuable lesson: do the things you want to (or the Lord wants you to) and don’t give even a second’s worth of thought to the cool factor.

Of course, there is a measure of common sense to this.  As believers, we are supposed to consider the feelings of others.  I am not talking about that here. I am talking about  doing (or not doing)  something because you are scared of what people will say about you.

I have always been somewhat of a “non-conformist”. That can get me in trouble sometimes, but, for the most part, I wouldn’t want to live life any other way.  So I am usually willing to try anything at least once.

Take my experience a few years ago in Dominican Republic. They were giving free scuba diving lessons in the pool for resort guests. My husband and I thought, “Why not? We are game. Scuba sounded like a very cool thing to do.”

But, I discovered (or shall I say was reminded) that day that I HATE being underwater.  I became totally claustrophobic–and I was only in a stupid swimming pool!  I don’t think I will ever be searching for lost treasure ships.

But that is because I don’t like it. No because I feel like someone else wants me to scuba dive or not scuba dive.

This takes on spiritual meaning when we consider that standing up for our convictions is often very uncool.

It is just not cool to avoid certain movies, bands, and TV shows. It is cool to wear immodest clothing, drink beer, and to tell coarse jokes and use foul language.

Unless we are willing to stand firm and risk being uncool, we won’t be able to make a difference for the Lord. After all, how can we be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) if we look and act just like everybody else.

So, alas, I know full well that I am totally uncool. But, truthfully, I am okay with that–because God’s thoughts about me are really the only thing that matters…and if He is pleased, then I will be living the life I am supposed to live…regardless of what other people say :)

 

It Will Be Worth It All.

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I derive comfort from these words and thought I would share them with you, as I will find it difficult to write today.  This is a beautiful old hymn that gives hope in the midst of discouragement and darkness.

IT WILL BE WORTH IT ALL

Sometimes the day seems long,
Our trials hard to bear.
We´re tempted to complain,
to murmur and despair.
But Christ will soon appear
to catch his bride away!
All tears forever over
in God’s eternal day!

CHORUS:
It will be worth it all
when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small
when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face,
all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race
till we see Christ.

At times the sky seems dark,
with not a ray of light;
We’re tossed and driven on,
no human help in sight.
But there is One in heaven,
Who knows our deepest care;
Let Jesus solve your problems,
just go to Him in prayer.

Life’s day will soon be o’re,
all storms forever past;
We’ll cross the great divide
to Glory, safe at last!
We’ll share the joys of heaven:
a harp, a home, a crown;
The tempter will be banished,
We’ll lay our burdens down.

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A Letter to My Children

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Being a mother was the only dream I had as a little girl. Oh, I know many women who aspire to be doctors, lawyers, politicians, and peace-keepers. But me–well, the only thing I ever truly wanted was to marry a godly man and have four children. Why God saw fit to make my dreams come true I will never understand, but I will always be grateful. On this Mother’s Day, I can honestly say that my children are an amazing blessing to me. All the work, the tears, the anguish, the angry words, the worry…they have all been worth it. As I have grown older as a mother, I have been challenged in my opinions and my priorities. Nothing has grown me up in Christ more than raising children.  And, so it is with these thoughts that I write the following to my children —

I don’t care what grades you get or what school awards you win, as long as I know you are trying your very hardest.

I don’t care where you live, as long as I know you are serving the Lord with everything you are.

I don’t care what career you choose, as long as you are working hard and are keeping God and your family your top priorities.

I don’t care what you study or what degree you pursue, as long as studying God’s Word is always most important.

I don’t care what you watch, listen to, or read, as long as you choose with  a heart that wants to please God more than wants to please self.

I don’t care what the world thinks about you, as long as God is pleased with your life.

I don’t care who loves you, but only how you love others.

I don’t care what accolades, awards, and contests you win, but only that you are a graceful loser and a humble winner.

I don’t care if you marry someone short or tall, plain or good-looking, as long as your choice loves God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I don’t care if my grandchildren are child prodigies, I only care that you teach them to love Jesus with all of their being.

Life is short and the choices we make mold the next generation. I pray that you would be bold and spiritually strong and that you hunger for holiness and righteousness. I pray that God would give you a hatred for sin and that you will be prepared to face the battles and dark days that surely lie ahead. You four are such an incredible blessing to me. I am not sure you will ever truly understand…until you have your own kids. Until then, know that you can’t do anything that would keep me from loving you. And I am in your corner –maybe not always saying what you want me to, but urging you to glorify God with your life and to use your talents and life for Him.

I love you all so much.

Love, Mom

 

I shared this post here–

Jesse Wilcox Smith~ On His Knee

Aging with Grace

Grandmother Talking With Teenage Granddaughter On BenchI am forty-four years old. 44! When I was in college I thought 40-somethings were OLD and, I guess if I were honest, somewhat irrelevant to my life. I was young and excited about the future before me. The last 20 years have flown by in a blur–so filled with activity and new experiences and busyness. And now much of what I was looking forward to is in my past, to some extent. Things like falling in love and getting married, having babies, and buying a home. I feel blessed beyond measure to have experienced each of these things. Some of you have had other dreams–maybe it was traveling the world or being a missionary or owning your own company. Many of us, by this time in our lives, have seen the fruition of some of our dearest and most important dreams. So now what?

Now what do we look forward to? Age spots? Wrinkles? Gray hair? Eyes that can’t see as well? Should my priority be to make myself look as young as possible? I can use all  kinds of powders and gels and creams and I can eat right and exercise–and they may delay the process of growing old–but they will not stop the process of my body aging. We cannot stop the clock.

In this culture, where physical beauty and youth are so highly valued, it is sometimes easy to feel very irrelevant. We feel like we have little of value to offer young people. They seem like they know it all. But, if I think back on those days, I know two things without a shadow of a doubt–

One (and, by far, the most important): I didn’t know it all, I only thought I did.   

And two: The adults who influenced me–the ones I would listen to–were the ones who cared deeply about me.

The Bible says:

Job 12:12 Wisdom is with aged men, and with length of days, understanding.

Proverbs 16:31 Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.

Proverbs 20:29 The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.

There is a natural occurrence of getting wiser as you get older. Yes, there are some exceptions to this. I am sure we can all think of at least one.  But most of us, as we experience joy, devastation, even endless days of routine, will be learning.  Learning to grow in a deeper walk with God, to trust Him, and to walk by faith. Over the course of the last 20 years, I have learned that I do not have all of the answers. And I have learned that I still have much growing to do on this journey.

But I have also learned how to handle some things in a godly way. And I am learning how to react and respond to the things I cannot change. And, as this learning process occurs, whether we are 22 or 52 or 91, we have learned something that could help a person coming behind us in this journey of life.

May we care deeply about those coming after us. May we share the wisdom that God has granted us through our experiences of living life. And may we continue to look to Him and His word as our final authority.  We must remember that it is not our opinions that matter, but what God says. If we live that and speak that and share that, maybe God will use us to help a younger person in need of guidance. Let’s turn our eyes outward and use these years to glorify God and help others along their way!

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